I do not know about y’all (I know about some of y’all. But there are things about y’all I do not know), but EYE come from a fairly musical family. I have a sister that sings well, a daughter that umm…SINGS. A son that can sing AND play a bunch of instruments (Hi, Boy!). Cousins that sing and play instruments. And that is just on *MY* side of the family. If you’re wondering about me, if you had me a note Very Gently, and I do mean *VERY GENTLY* I can carry it around for a little bit. But dassit. But I LOVE MUSIC! And probably not just because I’m black. [By the way guys, I definitely do make liberal use of that stereotype/joke BECAUSE *I* CAN. It is up to you to decide if this is a joke you can make. Just remember that freedom of speech =/= freedom from consequence, so choose wisely]

I also listen to a lot of music. All kinds. But also all day. Like, this morning when I was getting dressed for work I listened to Outkast. Because it’s great for getting you UP and moving (and yes there is also dancing at before 7AM while I’m getting dressed/putting on makeup) and then I get to work and listen to Lo-Fi while I’m hard at work procrastinating the fact that I *KNOW* I have a fact that I need to write but also I GOT WORK TO DO because also I HAVE A JOB THAT IS NOT ACTUALLY WRITING YOU JOKERS FACTS EVERY DAY. But. I do it ’cause I love you. Except you. You know who you are. Anyway. I want y’all to know that lo-fi is the perfect music to write to! I love it and yes this very last BHFOTD is a thank you to the late, great J Dilla, Godfather of Lo-Fi hip hop!

James Dewitt Yancey aka J Dilla aka Jay Dee was a record producer and rapper who emerged in the mid-‘90’s hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan, as 1/3 of the music group Slum Village. He was also a member of the Soulquarians.

Dilla’s family had a musical background. His mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey is a former opera singer and his father Beverly Dewitt Yancey was a jazz bassist AND performed Globetrotters half-time shows for several years (I..I mean okay, but it seems like A LOT). His brother John started making music later as Illa J. Along with a wide range of other musical genres, Jay developed a passion for hip hop music. After transferring to Pershing HS he met classmates T3 and Baatin and became friends with them through their mutual interest in rap battles. The three formed the rap group called Slum Village He also took up beat-making using a simple tape deck as the center of his studio. During these teenage years he “stayed in the basement alone” in order to train himself to produce beats with his growing record collection.

In 1992, he met the Detroit musician Amp Fiddler, who let Jay Dee use his Akai MPC, of which he quickly gained mastery. Fiddler, while playing keyboards with Funkadelic on the group’s slot on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour, met Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, who were also on the lineup. This is where Fiddler introduced Q-Tip to Jay Dee, who gave Q-Tip a Slum Village demo tape. In 1995, Jay Dee and MC Phat Kat formed 1st Down and became the first Detroit hip hop group to sign with a major label. In ’96, Slum Village recorded what would become their debut album Fantastic, Vol 1. The album quickly became a hit on the Detroit hip hop scene. By the mid-90’s Dilla had a string of singles and remix projects for Janet Jackson, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip’s solo album and others. Many of these productions were released without his name recognition, being credited to The Ummah, a production collective composed of him, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and later Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!. However, he was given songwriting credit on all of his non-remix productions under The Ummah.

2000 marked the major label debut of Slum Village with Fantastic, Vol. 2, creating a new following for J Dilla as a producer and an MC. He was also a founding member of the production collective known as The Soulquarians . Fun fact! The reason that I know about J Dilla is through Bilal, who was part of the Soulquarians collective. Who sings one of my favorite songs ever, who said this about him: “He had this thing where no matter what he picked up he could bend his will into it. Just because you hear it so strong in your head you can throw the funk in it.”

Dilla was signed to a solo deal with MCA Records in 2002. Although Dilla was known as a producer rather than an MC, he chose to rap on the album and have the music produced by some of his favorite producers, such as Madlib, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, Supa Dave West, Kanye West, Nottz, Waajeed and others. The album was shelved due to internal changes at the label and MCA.

J Dilla’s illness and medication caused dramatic weight loss in 2003 onwards, forcing him to publicly confirm speculation about his health in 2004. The seriousness of his condition became public in November 2005 when J Dilla toured Europe performing from a wheelchair. J Dilla died on February 10, 2006, at his home in Los Angeles, California, three days after his 32nd birthday and the release of his final album Donuts. [Sorry guys. I know this week has been filled with dead musicians, but it is what it is]

Dilla’s musical legacy, much like The Marathon, continues. At the time of his death, J Dilla had 150 unreleased beats, some of which were featured on Slum Village’s album  “Yes!”, His album Ruff Draft was reissued as a double LP/CD and is considered his 3rd solo album. Yancey Boys, an album by J Dilla’s younger brother Illa J was released in 2008. It’s produced entirely by J Dilla. In 2020, Dres of Black Sheep announced that he would be releasing a collaborative album with J Dilla titled No Words, with unreleased instrumentals of Dilla’s provided with the cooperation of Ma Dukes Yancey. His music is used in various TV programs and commercials. Common’s album Finding Forever is an album entirely dedicated to J Dilla, in which Kanye West cut up the samples in methods that J Dilla used. De La Soul pay tribute to Dilla on the track “La La La” with the line: “Dilla, if you hear me, we are missing you so much.” Y’all. I could go on and on because there are SO MANY ARTISTS that paid tribute. Love is knowing that you’ve touched so many creators that they love on you even after you’ve gone.

In fact, if I planned this out better, I coulda gave y’all this fact on Dilla Day (February 6th) The annual celebration of Dilla’s music and spirit in various cities complete with concerts and lectures and more (oh my!) MAYBE NEXT YEAR.

ANYWAY. That’s my time! Hope you enjoyed this years random facts about Black people, and Black people things! If you did, I accept well wishes, hugs and tips. If you didn’t, it’s because you’re terrible and don’t know culture when you see it! SEE YOU NEXT YEAR. Or…yannow. Whenever.

[Also yes. ONE of those song links is a Slum Village song. NO. I’m not going to tell you which one.]